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Could it be Magic?

Martin-Scovell

Martin Scovell looks at how banks can engage with customers on an individual basis…while saving money at the same time!
Delivering an improved customer experience. Reducing costs. But which to choose? Fail to cut costs and the business is undermined. But fail to deliver great customer service, buyers will go elsewhere and there’s no business left. Someone once told me: “Both great objectives but you need to decide which one you’re aiming for since only a magician can do both!”Martin-Scovell

Well, some progressive banks would beg to differ – as we shall see in a moment. But let’s first take a brief step back to see how we got to this point.

In the beginning there was the big corporation. Size meant power, influence and safety, and individual customers felt that they occupied a pretty insignificant place within in the corporate machine. Who could blame them? A business with a billion customers meant that an individual customer’s opinion was about as important as a grain of sand in the composition of a beach, and some businesses treated customers accordingly.

In fairness, how was the big corporation supposed to engage with an individual customer? There was simply insufficient time and resource to dedicate to dealing with billions of people one-at-a-time. The efficiency of the big organisation came from its ability to herd customers into following its own systems – to fit in without causing problems, time and expense.

One of the industries with the biggest headache was the financial services sector; their very success selling and processing millions of loan applications or insurance claims presented a nightmare if even a small percentage of those customers started jamming switchboards by innocently requesting application progress updates. Holding in a queue while beleaguered members of staff hunted for information was inevitable – to the frustration of the customer and at huge cost to the business.

But as customers, what choice was there?

‘Doing More for Less’ as a Catalyst for Change
Then, along came ‘doing more for less’ – reducing costs and increasing efficiency somehow married to the objectives of retaining customers and winning new ones, in a competitive environment. Grabbing more sales opportunities with the same or less resource demanded streamlining.

The catalyst for that change was triggered by the two drivers of the internet and Generation Y – a group which cared nothing for call-queues and letter writing but understood and took for granted the convenience of instant communications – with 24/7 Smartphone access from their sofa, desk, bed or holiday. It was dangerous to underestimate such customers and a waste of time to explain why their demands could not be met – they would simply migrate elsewhere.

Failing to appreciate the mindset of this new generation of customers and to grab new technology created to meet their service demands was a massive threat to the big corporations.

In fairness, some global banks were the first to lead the way, spotting the opportunity beyond the threat, innovating and working with partners such as Vodafone Global Enterprise. But some businesses failed to adapt and stuck with their turgid and unresponsive legacy systems. They were quickly punished. Because, for the first time, customers had at their disposal the ability to scale up their importance and magnify their influence by engagement with others.
Crime and Punishment
Social media makes customers powerful advocates if they like what a business does – but formidable enemies if they are unhappy with the service they receive. People are still talking about the incident in 2009 when a United Airlines traveller saw his guitar damaged by luggage handlers, and found his protest ignored by customer service staff. Before social media his complaint would have counted for nothing – the tiny voice of that grain of sand.

The mistake United Airlines made was to ignore the opportunity to secure the customer as an advocate by improving his experience. UA saw him as a lone-voiced, insignificant; but he was certainly not a lone voice for long. His YouTube video went viral and he was soon joined by eleven million supporters attacking United Airlines’ poor customer service. UA’s failure to understand customer relationships cost its shareholders a reported $180 million.
Build – or destroy

Some marketers say that everything a firm does involving its customer interaction is either a relationship builder or a relationship destroyer. News travels fast, and failing to embrace business simplification tools for process management and customer service can trigger a PR nightmare.

When Netflix announced a new pricing structure, some customers spotted that bills could rise by as much as 60 per cent. Before Generation Y, customers would have been left muttering to themselves in isolated frustration. But within six hours of the announcement Facebook was buzzing with more than 9,000 comments. By the time Netflix woke up to the significance of the protest a remarkable 805,000 customers had cancelled their subscriptions.

The dream ticket

But it’s not all bad news. Creating a personalised customer experience while reducing costs due to efficiencies is achievable. Ask the people who have done it. Pioneers such as Santander, Nationwide Building Society, Barclaycard and RBS have rolled-out agile connected communications to deliver a great online experience by providing a consistent real-time multi channel service – SMS, email, web and social – to a population that is plugged in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Building customer trust through SMS updates, allowing customers to keep on top of their finances or to initiate a transaction through one channel, pause and resume through another without duplication are some of the key values that this generation of customers expect – and that some already receive!

At the same time financial services firms have streamlined, adding simplification and transparency whilst reducing operating costs. Some are reporting customer chase calls down by 65 per cent and complaints down by 90 per cent.

Never before has the service delivery of big corporations been so polarised – unlocking enormous potential for adopters… while simultaneously exposing the risk of dinosaur-like extinction for the complacent.

Business simplification expert Martin Scovell is CEO of www.MatsSoft.co.uk – providing agile communications solutions to the global financial services industry.

 

 

 

 

Business

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy  

Contis enters RBS Capability and Innovation Fund bid seeking £35 million for disruptive SME growth strategy   36

Leading payments provider, Contis, has applied for two grants from the RBS & BCR Alternative Remedies Package, totalling £35 million.  

Unlike most applicants who will deploy funds through a single brand, Contis is taking a completely different approach. The funding will be used to drive fintech innovation in the UK by developing an off the shelf, B2B electronic and card payment technology platform for SMEs. With Contis’ powerful tech stack and regulated status, this will empower hundreds of fintechs to support the SME market with groundbreaking technologies, payments and lending capabilities. Contis today services over 800,000 consumer accounts, 14,500 business accounts and processes £4bn in transactions per year, demonstrating a proven track record.   

UK businesses are facing a challenging economic environment with the impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit. As large corporations and entire sectors are affected, SMEs will play a vital role in the recovery. Contis’ approach is completely disruptive, offering three channels to maximise support for SMEs and sole traders, through three unique brands, all powered by APIs from Contis’ modular and configurable engine. 

1.       Canvas for Business 

Contis is a super-vendor in the world of fintech, offering payments through proven banking rails and card scheme capabilities including issuing pre-paid, debit and virtual cards. They’re linked to digital delivery like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and a trusted tech stack that boasts 99.99% uptime.  

With funding from the Capability and Innovation Fund (CIF), Contis’ technology and regulated services will be made available to the whole fintech community, enabling them to provide dedicated SME accounts with the latest leading-edge capabilities delivered via Contis’ wholly owned, secure, cloud-based technology and apps. Contis’ solution has a firm eye on the need for SMEs to compete internationally, particularly after Brexit, and offers FX integration as standard.  

Canvas for Business will increase competition by providing fintechs serving the SME market with technology that outstrips the big banks. Contis will also provide credit referencing capabilities and empower fintechs to lend to their SME client base through Contis’ own credit licence. Without the constraints of legacy systems, it will enable simple connectivity to accounting and payments solutions, as well as to unlimited future innovations.  

2.       Engage for Business 

Over 150 Credit Unions currently use Contis’ Engage service and technology, and hold an estimated £400 million in undeployed cash reserves. Developed with CIF funding, Engage for Business will enable Credit Unions to launch business accounts and payments products for the first time, and allow excess funds to be redeployed in the SME sector through business support loans. This will revolutionise access to funding for sole traders and small businesses. 

3.       Freedom for Business 

With CIF funding, Contis will also offer large scale SMEs a direct-to-market solution where Contis holds the relationship and provides a bespoke offer to meet the business’ exact needs. 

Contis’ application to the Capability and Innovation Fund is focused on creating the widest possible impact for UK SMEs by fulfilling their accounts & payments needs and driving innovation in SME financial services. 

Through the grant, Contis will empower over 200 fintechs and Credit Unions to provide credit, simplify payments integration into everyday business needs, offer digital credit referencing, provide budgeting tools to SMEs, enable automated payments, give predictive insight on cash flow, provide rewards to SMEs on spending, and much more. 

Peter Cox, Founder and Executive Chairman of Contis said: “Our mission is to democratise payments and financial services for all SMEs, so they’re spoilt for choice with innovative and affordable solutions that meet their exact needs. Our approach, based upon proven technologies, will broaden and disrupt the services available to SMEs far beyond the capabilities of existing providers such as the big banks.  

“By driving competition and innovation, while improving the availability of funding, our approach will increase the services on offer to SMEs and make them more affordable, therefore becoming easier for every entrepreneurial person with vision to run their own businesses.” 

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Business

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver

Four years of digital transformation in four weeks: UK lockdown puts pressure on brands to digitally deliver 37

Nearly a third (32%) of consumers would switch providers if a brand’s website is unavailable for more than 24 hours

A study released today reveals the scale of omni-channel pressure brands now faced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, as consumers flock to apps and websites to as the priority destination to transact with brands.

The UK has experienced a huge leap in use of online services thanks to lockdown, with the public appearing to have less concern for the availability of a brand’s physical location. Research by Sungard Availability Services (Sungard AS) uncovers a “window of availability” that UK businesses now have before consumer loyalty changes:

  • If a brand’s website is down for 24 hours – 32 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a brand’s app is down for 24 hours – 28 percent of consumers would switch provider
  • If a physical store is closed for 24 hours – 20 percent of consumers would switch provider

The results by industry paint an interesting picture of the availability timeframes brands are expected to adhere to:

  • For online retailers, excluding grocery retailers – 23 percent of consumers would switch provider if they could not access online services for 12 hours, rising to over a third (34 percent) after 24 hours
  • For financial services and entertainment streaming platforms – 21 percent of consumers would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to 33 percent after 24 hours
  • In the case of online grocery shopping – 20 percent would switch provider after 12 hours, rising to one third 33 percent after 24 hours

The findings also highlight that as digital reliance increases, so will consumer expectations towards availability in the future. Over the coming two years, a third (33 percent) of consumers expect online financial services to always be available, rising to 35 percent for streaming services.

“UK consumers have become reliant on the constant availability of online services, and lockdown has only served to heighten this,” comments Chris Huggett, SVP, EMEA at Sungard AS. “What used to be a choice between physical and digital has now firmly accelerated into digital environments across various industries. As online worlds continue to outpace bricks and mortar as the face of businesses, ensuring constant availability and clear communications on downtime will be key for brands to build trust and loyalty.

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Business

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises

Demonstrating the value of collaborative leadership during crises 38

By Jean Stephens, CEO, RSM International

In 2000, a leading expert in behavioural science, Daniel Goleman, outlined the six key styles of leadership: autocratic, paternalistic, democratic, laissez-faire, transactional and transformational, with each having their own merits and drawbacks. However, the recent global pandemic has irrevocably altered the business landscape, as traditional work practices and routines have been forced to adapt to the needs of an increasingly remote workforce. These changes have been easier for some and presented new challenges for others. At C-suite level, it has been integral that leaders continue to harness the potential within their workforces to ensure that growth and innovation do not fall by the wayside.  As such, it has become increasingly clear that our new normal calls for a seventh, more collaborative style of leadership to come to the fore. Through this, middle-market business leaders can continue to drive growth by empowering others to collectively nurture and experiment with new ideas across their business.

In a survey conducted by RSM International earlier this year, it was revealed that nearly half (48%) of new ideas within European businesses were never explored by senior management, with 37% stating that resistance from senior leadership is the greatest barrier to change. But change should not be feared; it is an opportunity to unlock new opportunities and to challenge the norm. As a middle-market business leader, letting go of control can sometimes seem the hardest task of all, particularly in times like these where the wrong move can spell disaster. But micro-management can stifle creativity and diminish potential, especially in moments of rapid evolution. It can prevent brilliant thinkers from experimenting, provide a false sense of security and render organisations inflexible.

New challenges will continue to arise as lockdown measures ease and tighten as the virus recedes and spreads. It is the responsibility of collaborative leaders to empower those within their businesses to find comprehensive and innovative solutions to these new problems. By working together and supplying teams with the necessary support and toolkits, leaders can face challenging situations head on, rather than simply directing from above.

Demonstrating collaboration is also a powerful way to motivate employees through difficult times. Businesses across the globe have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with some having to introduce unpaid leave, cut pay or make redundancies. Asking employees to make these sacrifices while continuing to deliver in their roles requires trust in the leadership, transparency in the decision-making process and support where it is needed. In practice this can take many different forms; from weekly virtual meetings, where teams are encouraged to be open about the challenges they are facing, to offering additional technology and office equipment to those who do not have dedicated working areas at home. Internal surveys can act as a barometer for the mood of an organisation and show senior management how to help their employees’ transition to the new normal that bit easier. Weekly internal newsletters can also provide another layer of connection between staff in each corner of a sprawling business, from back office to support to front line workers, demonstrating that they are all part of a single team driving towards the same objectives.

As a leader, displaying understanding and empathy has also never been more crucial. Video conferencing has given us a window into the homes and lives of colleagues who we would not, ordinarily, have seen outside the office. Workers at all levels have taken responsibility for the emotional well-being of isolated colleagues. As a leader, all it takes is a little compassion and empathy to listen to those problems, provide support and help find a solution. Diffusing this ethos across a business will foster a community in which no one feels alone or abandoned in the face of pressure or stress, be it personal or professional.

2020 will be marked as a turning point for not only business but society as a whole. Many middle-market businesses have already proven themselves able to adapt rapidly to face new challenges and situations, but the change does not have to stop there. New circumstances provide new opportunities to listen, learn and innovate, to ensure your business and workforce can continue to thrive. We cannot predict how long this current situation will continue for but, as we continue to adapt, an empowered workforce under strong, collaborative leadership has the most potential to emerge more resilient and innovative than before – to thrive and not just survive.

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